Monday, April 29, 2013

Be Strong Today, My Soul

A thought from Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) that I found helpful today:

“Be strong today, my soul. Through the crucified Christ I can do everything, for he who comforts me dwells in me by desire and love.” Love, love, love!

[...] Have confidence! You shall find the source of charity in the side of the crucified Christ. I wish you to establish yourselves there and make a dwelling there for yourselves.

Rise up then with great and burning desire. Approach, enter and remain in this sweet dwelling.

No demon or any other creature can take this grace from you or hinder you from reaching your end, namely, that you should come to see and taste God.

I say no more. Abide in the holy and sweet love of God. Love, love one another.

Letter to the novices of the Order at Santa Maria de Monte Oliveto, from the Supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours for the Order of Preachers, feast of St Catherine of Siena, April 29th.

I am particularly fond of her call to find a home in the wounded side of Christ. This is an image that Julian of Norwich talks about and has been fermenting in my praying imagination for quite a while. I can abide in the love of God by abiding in the wounds of Jesus, where all my wounds are healed and all my sins are washed away. Holy and sweet indeed.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Now I Become Myself

A Poem by Mary Sarton

Now I become myself. It's taken

Time, many years and places;

I have been dissolved and shaken,

Worn other people's faces,

Run madly, as if Time were there,

Terribly old, crying a warning,

"Hurry, you will be dead before--"

(What? Before you reach the morning?

Or the end of the poem is clear?

Or love safe in the walled city?)

Now to stand still, to be here,

Feel my own weight and density!

The black shadow on the paper

Is my hand; the shadow of a word

As thought shapes the shaper

Falls heavy on the page, is heard.

All fuses now, falls into place

From wish to action, word to silence,

My work, my love, my time, my face

Gathered into one intense

Gesture of growing like a plant.

As slowly as the ripening fruit

Fertile, detached, and always spent,

Falls but does not exhaust the root,

So all the poem is, can give,

Grows in me to become the song,

Made so and rooted by love.

Now there is time and Time is young.

O, in this single hour I live

All of myself and do not move.

I, the pursued, who madly ran,

Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Word and Silence, Part 3

This is my final post of Kallistos Ware’s talk given on the Jesus Prayer. In my first post I shared his introductory meditation on Exodus 3. I my second post I shared his introduction to the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me) a particular praying tradition coming out of the Eastern Orthodox church.

In this post I want to post his material having to do with the two uses of the Jesus Prayer, what he calls “free” and “fixed.” I think both uses will lend itself well to those of us who are trying to practice the presence of God in our everyday (hopefully all my readers!).

First then, the free use: We can say the Jesus Prayer before we fall asleep, when we first wake up, while we are dressing, while we are tidying and cleaning our room, while we are washing up, while we are walking from place to place. . . . Now in this free use of the Jesus Prayer, its value is that it is on the one side powerful, and on the other side simple and direct. It is flexible and resilient. No special preparation is required in order to say the Jesus Prayer. We can simply begin. And in this way, it is a prayer for all seasons, a prayer that can be used in conditions of tension, distraction, when other more complex ways of praying are impossible. Hence, I see the Jesus Prayer as especially appropriate to our present age of anxiety. In fact, the Jesus Prayer is being used today, in all probability, by more people than ever before, both by Orthodox and by non-Orthodox. The rationale of this free use of the Jesus Prayer is that it unites our prayer time and our work time. It turns our work into prayer. It makes the secular sacred. It brings Christ into everything we do. It enables us to find Christ everywhere.

There is a poem by George Herbert, often used as a hymn, The Elixir:

Teach me, my God and King in all things thee to see
And what I do at anything, to do it as for thee.

Now let us turn to the fixed use of the Jesus Prayer, where we are trying to say the prayer and not doing anything else. . . . The inner aim of what I call the fixed use is, yes, to create silence, and here I think of the Greek word hesychia, a key word in The Philokalia: silence in the sense of stillness of the heart.

Baron Friedrich von Hugel, used to say, “Man is what he does with his silence.”

. . . The Jesus Prayer, then, is a way of entry into true silence, into inner stillness or hesychia. But what do we mean by silence? Is it merely outer, an absence of sound, a pause between words? Is it basically negative, or is it rather, inward and positive, not an absence, but a presence? Not a void, not emptiness, but fullness? Does not silence mean, in the true spiritual sense, awareness of the Other? In the words of Georges Bernanos, “Silence is a presence. At the heart of it is God.”

In the Psalms, Psalms 45, in the Hebrew numbering 46, we read, “Be still and know that I am God.” The psalm verse does not simply say, “Be still,” but it then goes on to speak of the presence of God. Know that God is. Stillness, silence is God awareness. True silence then, in prayer, understood in this positive sense, signifies not isolation but relationship. It signifies receptivity, openness, encounter. A losing and finding of oneself in the Other, through love.

Silence then, in prayer, means “being with,” in an alert, attentive manner. Silence is creative listening. . . . It’s a praying of listening, a prayer of simple gazing, a contemplative prayer.

Now the trouble is, if we try to be silent in prayer, if we just stand or sit saying nothing, we become victims of distracting thoughts. We cannot turn off the inner television set by a simple act of will. The thoughts keep coming—not necessarily bad thoughts, but irrelevant thoughts that have nothing to do with our prayer. . . . Now what are we to do about this endless flow of thoughts, pictures through our minds when we try to be silent, just to stand before God? Well, we can’t stop the flow of thoughts just by saying to ourselves, “Stop thinking.” We might as well say to ourself, “Stop breathing.” It can’t be done by a simple effort of will. But what we can do is give to our ever-active mind a very simple task: the repeated invocation of the Holy Name: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.

So the Jesus Prayer is a prayer in words, but because the words are simple, frequently repeated, it is a prayer that leads through words into silence. We speak, but at the same time we listen.

Now, some of you may feel certain objections to this way of praying. The frequent repetition of a short formula of invocation. Did not our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount warn us against vain repetitions? To that I answer the Jesus Prayer is indeed a repetition, but if the Jesus Prayer is said with deep faith, with ardent love for the Savior, then it is not a vain repetition but a repetition full of meaning.

- Dag Hammarskjöld, said in Markings, “Understand through the stillness. Act out of the stillness. Conquer in the stillness.”

St. Ignatius of Antioch uses the memorable phrase “Jesus Christ, the Word that came out of stillness.” Because Christ’s words came out of stillness, they were words of fire and healing. Because Christ’s actions came out of stillness, they were acts of power and transfiguration. All too often, our words and actions are superficial and ineffective because they do not come out of stillness. But if only they had their source in prayer, in living, inner prayer, such as the Jesus Prayer, they would bear fruit in ways far beyond anything we imagine possible.

“Act out of the stillness.” The Jesus Prayer is a contemplative prayer but it’s a prayer that enables us to combine contemplation and action, prayer that makes our contemplation active and our action contemplative.

I’m glad Ware dealt with (or least attempted to deal with) the objection of “vain repetition,” because I’m sure that is what comes to many of our minds when we consider the discipline of praying this prayer. I have found such prayers useful to pray not for long stretches of time but to focus my gaze on Jesus and his mercy. It’s often helpful to take simple phrases like this and link them to our breathing as we calm ourselves before God.

I would love to hear how you, the reader, are processing what Ware is teaching and how it might help you walk with the Lord.

Word and Silence, Part 2

In part 1, Kallistos Ware prepared us to consider the Jesus prayer by walking us through a meditative reflection on Exodus 3. Now he turns to the Jesus Prayer a one way of growing in our relationship with God. I have edited the material to capture the salient points, but hopefully it’s not too choppy!

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.”

Now, the Invocation of the Holy Name—the Jesus Prayer—is a way in, a prayer that can enable us to take off our shoes, to wake up, to realize that we are standing on holy ground, to be gathered into God’s presence here and now at this very moment. Notice I say that it is a way in. It is not the only way. Prayer is personal, a person-to-person conversation, a dialogue, between one specific subject—me—and another specific subject—God, the Holy Trinity.

. . . The center and heart of the Jesus Prayer is the holy name “Jesus” itself. The name given to the Son of God at his human birth in Bethlehem by Mary his virgin mother, by his foster father Joseph. So it is a name that sums up the double reality of Christ, that he is fully and truly God and fully and truly man. And the name “Jesus” means more particularly “Savior.” As the angel says to Joseph, Matthew 1:21, “You are to name him ‘Jesus’ for he will save his people from their sins.”

So meaning, as it does, “salvation,” the name “Jesus” speaks to us not only of our Lord’s incarnation but also of his death and resurrection. In the Old Testament, the divine name is felt as a source of grace and power. And so also it is with the name “Jesus” in the New Testament. Through the holy name, devils are cast out. Miracles are brought to pass. In the words of a second-century text, The Shepherd of Hermas, the name of the Son of God is great and boundless and it upholds the whole world.

So for us Orthodox, the Jesus Prayer, containing as it does this great and boundless holy name, is felt to transmit to us the grace and power of Jesus the Savior himself. It has a sacramental value. It is an outward and visible sign of an inner and spiritual grace.

There are two ways in which the Jesus Prayer can be used. First, what we may call the free use during all the passing moments of the day that might otherwise be wasted, once or several times as we are busy with our regular daily tasks we can recite the Jesus Prayer. And then there is what we may call the fixed use, when we say the Jesus Prayer as part of our regular prayer time in conditions of external quiet, when we are seeking solely to pray and are not engaged in any other activity. And it is possible to use the Jesus Prayer in the first way, in the free way, without necessarily using it as part of our regular prayer time in the fixed way. Now the aim of the free use of the Jesus Prayer can be summed up in the words “Find Christ everywhere.” And the aim of the fixed use could be summed up in the phrase “Create silence.”

Do you have any experience praying this prayer? It has been helpful to me at various times of my life, and it is good to keep it in the toolbox for situations when it can be particularly helpful. It seems very personal and gospel-centered.

I never thought of this prayer in terms of the two maxims, “Find Christ everywhere,” and “Create silence,” but I really think those are helpful distinctions. These have to do with the “free” and “fixed” use which we will look at next.

Part Three

Word and Silence, Part 1

I came across this lecture from Eastern Orthodox theologian Kallistos Ware, lecturing on the Philokalia (a collection of spiritual writings from the Eastern church between the 4th and 15th centuries) which you can download here in .pdf format. I have hardly any exposure to it, but in a recent lecture by Dallas Willard he mentions the Philokalia as a great source of early Christian Spiritual Formation.

As I listened to the lecture, I became very distracted by his voice, which sounded like Christopher Lee playing Saruman in Lord of the Rings! I decided to read through it as I had time, and found some really excellent points encouraging me in my recent attempts to practice the presence of God and live as an apprentice of Jesus more intentionally throughout my day to day life.

In part 1, I will post part of Ware’s introduction which provides an amazing meditation on Exodus 3 (Moses at the burning bush). It’s in a very distinctive Orthodox theology and style, which will encourage some significant reflection. In subsequent posts I will post some of his teaching on the Philokalia, particularly on what is called the “Jesus Prayer.”

Now, by way of introduction, let me set before you, as in an icon, a decisive moment in the Old Testament: Moses at the Burning Bush, as described in Exodus 3. As Moses stands before the bush in the desert, that burns but is not consumed, God says to him two things. And he says these same two things to you and me and to everyone who seeks to enter into the mystery of living prayer.

First of all, God says to Moses, “Take off your shoes.” Now, on the interpretation of the Greek Fathers, for example, St. Gregory of Nyssa, shoes, made from the skins of dead animals, signify the deadness of repetition, boredom, inattentiveness. “Take off your shoes” then, means, symbolically: “Free yourself from what is lifeless, from enslavement to the trivial, the mechanical, the repetitive. Shake off the deadness of boredom. Wake up. Come to yourself. Open your spiritual eyes. Cleanse the doors of your perception. Look and see! Listen!” [he notes here that the title to the Philokalia includes this concept - “Philokalia of the Holy Neptic Fathers” or “The Fathers Who Taught Wakefulness.”]

Our [primary] problem . . . is that we are bored and so we grow fragmented and dispersed. . . . We are not truly present where we are, gathered in the here and now, practicing what has been called “the sacrament of the present moment.”

So, returning to Moses, what happens next, after we have symbolically removed our shoes? God then says to Moses, “The place on which you are standing is holy ground.” What do we experience when we take off our shoes and begin to walk barefoot? We suddenly become sensitive, in a good way. Vulnerable, in a positive manner. The earth under our feet comes alive. We feel grains of dust between our soles. We feel the texture of the grass. So it is spiritually. Removing our shoes, freeing ourselves from inner deadness, we begin to realize that God is very close. The world around us is holy. We renew our sense of awe and wonder before each thing. Each thing, each person, becomes a sacrament of the Divine Presence, a means of communion with God.

So, let us apply the story in Exodus 3 to our prayer. To pray in spirit and in truth is to stand like Moses before the Burning Bush. To take off our shoes, to strip ourselves of deadness, to awaken, to experience all things as fresh and new, to recognize that we are standing on holy ground, to know that God is immediately present before us and within us.

I really love this meditation. It shows a meditative, contemplative way into the event at the burning bush that helps me shed all that is false and seek to see with new eyes.

Prayer is both putting off the old and putting on the new. There is a letting go before there can be a taking up. Detachment from what is false and dead often must precede attachment to God.

There is here a holiness that is earthiness, a way of feeling our vulnerability as creatures of the dust, in touch with the creation around us and under our feet as we relate to God in prayer.

If we followed this meditation we could be a lot more honest with God, I think, and isn’t that a huge purpose of prayer? Thoughts?

Part Two

Monday, April 15, 2013

For Brennan

I am among the multitude of broken believers who have found deep, life giving waters through the ministry of Brennan Manning. Though I was saddened to hear of his passing this past weekend (4/12/13) I rejoice that he is finally at rest in the arms of our Abba.

I wanted to share just a few thoughts on the man’s life and impact on my own. See this post for my reflections on his last book, All is Grace. Two aspects are prominent in my mind:

1) For me, he helped facilitate categories and experiences of considering and rejoicing in the unconditional love of God, especially in response to a self-hatred that has dogged me all my life. I had the opportunity to hear him live once, in a small church in Southern Indiana about 8-9 years ago. He had a pretty common script that he followed, as anyone searching through his lectures or videos can attest. Mostly his ministry came to me through his books, my favorites being Abba’s Child, Lion and Lamb, and Ragamuffin Gospel.

His favorite texts became mine. I still love to hear him read them to me:

“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away,
for behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away.
O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
in the crannies of the cliff,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely. (Song of Solomon 2:10-14 ESV)

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life. (Isa 43:1-4 ESV)

2) His Abba prayer (“Abba, I belong to you”) has been a part of my regular life with God for the last 8-9 years at least. It has become as natural to me as breathing, as I breathe in saying “Abba,” and breathe out with “I belong to you.” There is gospel power in this prayer!

Thank you, Brennan, for taking the risk of letting yourself be loved by God. You paved the way for so many of us bedraggled and despairing saints to find grace at the Cross.

See his obituary here.

I finish this post with a short video clip of a familiar script from Brennan, a short summary of his message. Enjoy it, bask in the love of your Abba! Feel free to post how his ministry has impacted your life.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ecclesiology 101: God Hung Among Thieves

Listening to a Steve Brown sermon recently called “Church R Us,” in which he quoted Ronald Rolheiser from his book, The Holy Longing. It’s an amazing, thought-provoking quote that deserves much reflection and even more living.

"…to be connected to the church is to be associated with scoundrels, warmongers, fakes, child-molesters, murderers, adulterers, and hypocrites of every description. It also, at the same time, identifies you with saints and the finest persons of heroic soul within every time, country, race, and gender…because the church always looks exactly as it looked at the original crucifixion, God hung among thieves."

God hung among thieves. Think about that the next time you’re gathered with other believers.

No church ever becomes more than that - no matter how “strong” and “healthy” they may be, and no church ever becomes less than that - no matter how “weak” and “sickly” they (we) may be.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Jonathan Edwards and Dallas Willard on Spiritual Formation

What has an old Puritan in common with a USC Philosophy Professor? They both help me understand how God forms souls, particularly through the spiritual disciplines.

I came across a quote (see the reference here) from one of my old heroes, Jonathan Edwards, that spoke of what we can do as disciples to participate in the work of God. I then did a little more research and found a fuller quote on John Piper’s Desiring God site. Edwards was preaching on Song of Solomon 5:1 and it caused him to reflect on how we bring ourselves before God in order to eat and drink. The text reads,

Eat, friends, drink,
and be drunk with love!

These words from the friends of the Bridegroom caused Edwards to teach that we ought

to be endeavoring by all possible ways to inflame their desires and to obtain more spiritual pleasures. . . . Our hungerings and thirstings after God and Jesus Christ and after holiness can't be too great for the value of these things, for they are things of infinite value. . . . [Therefore] endeavor to promote spiritual appetites by laying yourself in the way of allurement...There is no such thing as excess in our taking of this spiritual food. There is no such virtue as temperance in spiritual feasting.

Vintage Edwards!

It was the phrase “laying yourself in the way of allurement” that caught my eye and reminded me of a strong stream of teaching from Dallas Willard that says something similar. Spiritual disciplines are acts of laying ourselves in the way of allurement, placing ourselves at God’s banqueting table with expectation and confidence that he will indeed feed us with food that satisfies as well as conforms us to Christlikeness from the inside out.

Willard says,

The question then is: How, precisely, I am to go about doing my part in the process of my own transformation? What is my plan? The answer to this question is, in general formulation: By practice of spiritual disciplines, or disciplines for the spiritual life. We may not know or use this terminology, but what it refers to is what we must do.

What is discipline? A discipline is an activity within our power--something we can do--which brings us to a point where we can do what we at present cannot do by direct effort. Discipline is in fact a natural part of the structure of the human soul, and almost nothing of any significance in education, culture or other attainments is achieved without it. Everything from learning a language to weight lifting depends upon it, and its availability in the human makeup is what makes the individual human being responsible for the kind of person they become. (online article, “Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation and the Restoration of the Soul”).

What disciplines have you found helpful recently in laying yourself in the way of allurement?

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Some Thoughts on Fatherhood in Ephesians

Our text for consideration at Fellowship Church today was Ephesians 6:1-4, and it got me thinking about what Ephesians has to say about earthly fathers and how it relates to our heavenly Father.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

I was focused intently on v.4, dealing with my fathering and all the ways I provoke my children to anger (Jesus, have mercy on me). Part of my reflection came around to how our authority is from God (Rom 13:1) and that our fathering will either help or hinder our children from receiving fathering from God. Ideally, I am to father my children in such a way that lays down an imprint for them to understand and receive the correction and instruction of the Father of Jesus. When my fathering is corrupted by sin, I create obstacles and stumbling blocks for my children.

God the Father created earthly fatherhood to model his heart and convey his kingdom, and Ephesians is one of the few places that I know of in the Scripture that directly links this relationship.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:14-19 ESV)

The phrase, “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,” seems to imply the link between God the Father and earthly fathers (and more generally, families). The fact that this relationship is tied to our ability to receive the love of Christ only reinforces the importance of fatherhood.

The last thought I wanted to share is possibly the most important – what do I do with my broken, sinful fathering? I always feel so guilty hearing sermons like this, so much pressure to do better. For the most part, I have long given up on the project of “trying harder.” The only thing such efforts produce is either more profound failure or insufferable self-righteousness.

I realize all too painfully that my only hope is to return to the Father through the shed blood of his Son (my elder brother) Jesus. His blood covers not only my fatherly failures but also my fatherly successes, for all of it falls short of the glory of Father God. My only hope, and my children’s only hope, is in the righteousness of Christ bestowed upon sons (and daughters) by faith. His gracious fathering provides all I need to father my children with grace, wisdom and faith.

Friday, April 05, 2013

The Gift of Brokennness

I have a long way to go in seeing the value of brokenness in others. I have even further in seeing the value of brokenness in myself. Yet, I’m convinced that it is brokenness and not strength that draws sinners compellingly to the Savior, and always will be.

Henri Nouwen is one of my heroes not because he wrote a ton of books, attended and taught in some of our nation’s most prestigious schools, but because he chose to leave all that behind (literally) and live with those who were not capable of being impressed with outward success, diplomas or accomplishments. He moved in to L’Arche simply in order to live with a community of handicapped adults and learn to love and be loved. Listen to this:

“The first thing that struck me when I came to live in a house for mentally handicapped people was their liking or disliking me had absolutely nothing to do with any of the many useful things I had done until then. Since nobody could read my books, they could not impress anyone, and since most of them never went to school, my 20 yrs at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard did not provide a significant introduction.…. This experience forced me to rediscover my true identity.  These broken, wounded, and completely unpretentious people forced me to let go of the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things – and forced me to reclaim that unadorned self in which I’m completely vulnerable, open to receive and give love regardless of any accomplishments…. The great message we have to carry as followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.” (source unknown, quoted by Pete Scazzero)

Let us welcome the “broken, wounded, and completely unpretentious people” around us. More importantly, let us learn from them how to live as true beloved sons and daughters of God through Christ, whose best accomplishment was a foolish and shameful display of bloody sacrifice on a Roman Cross. If we learn to live this way we too shall be open invitations to others to come aside and find rest, just like him.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Some Blog Housekeeping . . .

Just a few updates and comments:

1) Blog Profile Description - I’ve been wanting to update my profile blurb for a while, and finally changed it to this:

I stumble through the kingdom of God as a sanctified loser, holy sinner and a broken and beloved man. I currently pitch my tent in the land of Kentucky and write on this blog as a means of working out my salvation in the context of the mundanely glorious world of work, family, church, food, music, dogs, books, and friends.

I am deeply committed to an evangelical reformed faith expressing itself in emotionally healthy ways and experienced within a contemplative intimacy with my Creator and Father through Jesus. I hope and pray that this blog will provide access to fresh water from the Word and Spirit, for myself and anyone silly enough to tag along. Jesus meets us right where we are and comes to us in brokenness revealing the heart of the Father. Let us eat and drink together from his table, friends!

I wanted to re-write this in light of some of the new things Jesus is doing and has done in me. Hopefully this will suffice for a while!

2) Comments on my blog posts – I need to get better at encouraging participation, but let me just say I always welcome interaction with anyone who drops by! My only caveat is that I will not accept “anonymous” posts without some kind of ID or login, to avoid the barrage of “adult” Spam that comes through if I don’t restrict it. Sorry if this is an inconvenience for anyone.

Don’t be afraid to be named here, this is a safe place. If you’ve been blessed or challenged by something you’ve encountered here, I’d love to hear from you. If you’ve been offended by something here, it’s likely you’re a very religious and uptight person and reading the wrong blog. Please apply some extra grace and kindness while you are here. That said, the internet is a big place, and there’s space for you too! I invite you to begin your journey here. You will feel much safer.

3) I’ve been providentially blessed to have chosen a name for my blog – School of the Broken Heart – that has not only stood the test of time, but become increasingly accurate over time. It accurately depicts (far more than I knew when I first put it up here) the unfolding work of the kingdom of God in my life. I am truly in school, for the rest of my life, with my broken heart in the presence of Jesus. This gives me hope, as it is the primary means by which the Spirit of God tethers me to the Cross.

And FYI, for those interested, I came up with the title for this blog from a sermon of the same name from Sojourn Community Church where I was attending at the time. If memory serves, it was about Luke 24 and the burning hearts of the disciples hearing Jesus explain the Scriptures.

4) Similar to my last point, the web address of this blog has remained profoundly apt for me. It came out of my reading Mike Yaconelli’s excellent book Messy Spirituality around the same time I started this blog in 2006. I am a “messy saint” with more questions than answers at times. God help me if I become a “together saint,” or God help those around me who have to put up with me!